With the National Hockey League lockout canceling the remainder of the NHL preseason schedule, and possibly a good amount of the NHL's regular season, the Springfield Falcons are officially playing in the most competitive hockey league in North America.
The American Hockey League is also arguably the second best hockey league in the world, and Western Massachusetts fans are fortunate to have this caliber of play right in their own backyard. The Falcons are devoting all of their resources to marketing and selling their product, but the question is how will the fans respond?
The response will most likely be better than that of the 2004-2005 AHL season, when another NHL lockout wiped out the entire NHL season. Unfortunately for the Falcons, the MassMutual Center renovation was in full swing, and was not completed until the beginning of the 2005-2006 season.
Although it is over a year removed, this region has certainly seen an increase in its attention to hockey, thanks to the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup in 2011. Without the NHL, the Falcons hope to capture this attention in the MassMutual Center.
But will an NHL lockout even make a difference? The Falcons can certainly top their average attendance of 3,659 last year. With that being said, the NHL does not directly compete with the AHL, as it only boosts the attention for its development league. How fans will respond will be up to them, but you can bet that the Falcons will give their full effort to promote their brand, and fill those seats with casual AHL fans who no longer have the NHL as an option.
Zach Baru also blogs for Sports Business Boston. He can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.